Is an Operations Management Degree for You?

Students who graduate from operations management programs are equipped with the skills to run complex organizations such as distribution centers, retail chains and computer-integrated firms. During the program, they build upon their knowledge of different business-related disciplines, including financial accounting and business marketing, using case studies to hone their skills. They learn to control inventory, schedule and allocate projects, and ensure that efficiency is optimal. Operations management students become familiar with enterprise resource planning systems and project management software that will assist them in their daily responsibilities. Because of the scope of their duties, they must possess solid organization, communication and teamwork skills. Ultimately, an organization's ability to function properly is reliant on its operations manager's competency.

Advice for Earning Your Operations Management Degree Online

Earning your operations management degree online is every bit as challenging as earning it at a brick-and-mortar school. You must commit yourself to learning the material at a steady pace amid the other responsibilities in your life. Because you will be working hard for the degree and expect to see results, it's important that you verify that your prospective school is accredited by a respected accrediting group. Accreditation is a measure that ensures colleges are performing to the satisfactory educational standards established by the accrediting organizations. You can check a school's status by visiting the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. If your school and program are accredited, employers will be more likely to respect your degree.

Required Courses

Operations management students must be proficient and well rounded in the business disciplines. They therefore enroll in courses such as financial accounting, managerial accounting, microeconomics, macroeconomics, marketing, business ethics and business law. Their upper-level schedules may consist of operations management, principles of management and organization, business strategy and policy, leadership skills for managers, personnel and human resources management, comparative international management and compensation administration. To properly oversee an organization, operations managers must possess solid math skills. Students are thus required to take calculus and statistics. Additionally, some students must take writing courses, as communication is essential in management occupations.

Common Career Paths

In the past, operations management jobs were associated with manufacturing and plant management, but that has changed as more graduates have entered the service sector and taken jobs in corporate settings. The increasing use of technology to handle complex business operations has resulted in higher demand for the occupation, so a degree in operations management provides graduates with a multitude of options. They include (but are not limited to):

  • Operations Manager: Operations managers are responsible for the supervision of staff, project management and building working relationships with clients. On a daily basis, operations managers resolve issues in the workplace, collaborate with other employees to promote and improve customer service, check that other staff members are working effectively and efficiently, and ensure that projects and deadlines are met by employees. Operations managers are needed in a wide range of industries to monitor and oversee the general well-being of the organization, and sometimes their duties can overlap with those of CEOs. Although specific hiring and educational requirements will vary among employers, most prefer to hire operations managers who have at least a bachelor's degree in business administration, liberal arts, management or a closely related field. Because operations managers are needed in many industries, job growth will be dependent on the industry outlook at the time. Annual salaries of operations managers are likely to vary widely depending on employer, experience and location, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary of an operations manager was $94,400 in 2010.
  • Operations Research Analyst: Operations research analysts use analytical techniques to help managers make better decisions about their companies. They also help solve the problems and issues that may arise within the company. They formulate and apply mathematical modeling methods and statistics to analyze information essential to the success of a business or organization. These analysts are often involved with the strategizing, planning and forecasting of company expansion. Operations research analysts also allocate resources, measure performance of staff, design systems, manage supply chains, analyze databases, and coordinate transportation and distribution. Employers prefer workers who have completed advanced math courses and are familiar with the subject area because these analysts are commonly employed with financial service, computer system design, insurance, management, telecommunications or technical consulting firms. They may also work for the federal government. Employment of operations research analysts is expected to increase 15 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual salary was $70,960 in 2010.
  • Operations Consultant: Operations consultants assist various types of businesses and organizations in evaluating and accessing their internal policies, strategies and procedures. Operations consultants begin their work by examining the workflow of a business or organization. The consultant evaluates the division of labor in various departments within the organization and studies how they relate to one another and whether they fulfill customers' demands. With this information, operations consultants can then change or develop procedures and policies that enhance the operation of the business and ensures that it is working as efficiently as possible. Operations consultants must have good written and oral communication skills. The educational requirements of most operations consultants consist of at least a bachelor's degree in business management, operations management, business administration or a closely related discipline. Annual salaries for entry-level operations consultants ranged from $30,639 to $88,084 as of July 2012, according to Payscale.com.
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